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Total quality
Implementing total quality management
management with a focus on
enhancing customer satisfaction
913
Satish Mehra and Sampath Ranganathan
Fogelman College of Business and Economics, The University of Memphis, Received November 2007
Memphis, Tennessee, USA Revised May 2008
Accepted May 2008

Abstract
Purpose – Aims to examine the role of total quality management (TQM) towards enhancing
customer satisfaction.
Design/methodology/approach – Using meta-analysis, existing research studies on TQM and
customer satisfaction were quantified, summarized, and tested for moderators to clarify TQM impact.
Findings – It is found that TQM substantially increases customer satisfaction across diverse
industrial and cultural settings.
Originality/value – This research broadens the scope of TQM applicability across varied industrial
and cultural settings to achieve higher customer focus, increased customer satisfaction, and stresses
the need for more meta-analytic studies on the subject.
Keywords Total quality management, Customer satisfaction
Paper type Research paper

1. Introduction
Stressing the importance of product quality, some have suggested that improvement of
service and tangible product quality is the single most critical challenge facing US
businesses (Zeithaml et al, 1990). Improving quality is no longer considered as the duty
of the manufacturing department, it is everybody’s job in the organization. Quality
improvement must become a philosophy as well as a way of life. One movement which
stressed this view point was total quality management (TQM). TQM is defined as
an organization-wide philosophy requiring all employees at every level of an
organization to focus his/her efforts to help improve each business activity of the
organization (Mehra et al, 2001). Compared to the result-oriented quality programs of
the past, TQM is process oriented. Much of the quality literature in 1990s discussed
about how Japanese firms used TQM to improve their competitive positions, and how
it influenced other businesses followed them (Yavas, 1995).
Emphasizing TQM both as a process and a philosophy, previous writers state that:
[. . .] the people in the organization are required to make quality a culture in their daily lives.
Furthermore, it is also important to understand that TQM is a long-term perpetual
improvement process requiring significant resources, both financial and human. It is a
dynamic process – not a static one. It is a continuous effort with no deadlines or target dates.
International Journal of Quality &
The process can never be considered complete since there is no goal or destination; hence, Reliability Management
TQM becomes a way of life (Mehra et al., 2001, p. 856). Vol. 25 No. 9, 2008
pp. 913-927
Even though the popularity of TQM grew, sceptics started questioning the usefulness q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
0265-671X
of TQM. Many Japanese firms which successfully implemented TQM failed when the DOI 10.1108/02656710810908070
IJQRM Japanese economy went on a long recession in 1990s. Dawson (1995) said that TQM is
25,9 excessively dependent on Japanese culture and cannot be successfully implemented in
individualistic cultures like the USA. Other scholars argue that TQM is not adaptable
to dynamic situations in the current business environment (Dooley and Flor, 1998).
However, Hoover (1995) says that management expects too much, and too soon from
adapting TQM. He cautions against the overselling of TQM as the panacea for all
914 problems that plague a firm. Therefore, instead of claiming that TQM has failed
management, one can argue that management has failed TQM.
As debate on the impact of TQM continued, research on TQM increased
dramatically in 1990s (Filippini, 1997). In spite of the increase in research on TQM,
many questions remain unanswered. For instance, various components of TQM must
be explored, and the impact of TQM on organizational performance must be analyzed
(Filippini, 1997).
Mehra et al. (2001) conducted a literature review on TQM and suggested that
businesses implementing TQM should focus on five elements. These elements are
human resources (HRs), management structure, quality tools, supplier support, and
customer orientation. After summarizing the literature on TQM, Mehra et al. (2001)
concluded that the organizational emphasis in future will shift towards following four
main areas for quality improvement:
(1) customer focus;
(2) process focus;
(3) innovation focus; and
(4) environmental focus.

Mehra et al. (2001) particularly stressed the importance of customer focus and said that
TQM itself is customer oriented. Authors emphasized the importance of the elements of
customer loyalty and customer satisfaction in the area of customer focus. Stressing the
need for using TQM to enhance customer focus, these authors stated that businesses
must shift their focus toward customer satisfaction. Given that customer focus is
heavily mentioned in the literature, Mehra et al. (2001) proposed that TQM of the future
should be redefined to include customer focus. Hence, one can understand that TQM by
definition is a customer-oriented philosophy, and customer focus is expected to occupy
a predominant place in the future of TQM literature. These arguments find support
from various scholars. For instance, Chien et al. (2002) say that for a firm attempting to
implement TQM, customer satisfaction is an important objective to achieve. They
argue that the level of customer satisfaction achieved is closely related to a company’s
TQM practices, and it affects a company’s performance. In a later study on quality
management, Kaynak (2003) suggested further research is necessary on the
relationship between TQM and customer relations/satisfaction. Hence, it is
plausible that customer-focused organizations need catalytic agents like TQM to
enhance customer focus and their performance.
2. Objectives of the study
Based upon the above stated arguments, we believe that studying the impact of TQM
on the four focus areas mentioned by Mehra et al. (2001) will ensure enhanced
organizational performance. However, studying the impact of TQM on all the focus
areas and elements is way beyond the scope of any one study. Therefore, in our present
study, we attempt to investigate the impact of TQM on one single focus area; customer Total quality
focus. To achieve our objectives, we use meta-analysis to identify potential moderators management
of the relationship between TQM and performance through customer satisfaction.
First, let us present findings of our literature survey on TQM and customer
satisfaction.

3. Related literature 915


3.1 History of TQM
As early as 1979, Crosby (1979) defined 14 steps for quality improvement. His work
finds support in the writings of Ishikawa (1976, 1985) who emphasized the importance
of training, problem solving, and quality circles as a method to achieve continuous
improvement. Deming (1986), in his landmark work, Out of the Crisis, divulged the 14
principles that formed the basis of TQM. Juran (1986) identified the three basic
functions of a quality management process: planning, organization, and control as the
stages for quality improvement programs. For successful quality improvement,
Feigenbaum (1991) stressed the need of leadership, a commitment to incorporate
quality in the organization’s practices, and the participation of the entire workforce.
These advocates of quality management studied the philosophical underpinnings of
TQM and suggested various approaches to quality management.
Both 1980s and 1990s witnessed the emergence of Japanese company wide quality
control programs like Deming prize, Malcolm Baldrige, Australian and European
quality awards, ISO 9000 series of quality standards, and QS-9000 based quality
systems. Many organizations around the world followed these quality approaches and
improved the quality of their products, services, and operational performance
measures (Chin et al., 2003). Following the global trend, TQM became the quality
buzzword in the USA during 1980s. Businesses all over USA tried to implement the
Deming and/or Juran principles of quality in their firms. Many firms adopted TQM in
their operations and saved millions of dollars (Goldman, 2005).
From its inception, TQM was customer oriented. Goldman (2005) noted that the
customers’ needs should be fully integrated into the design and development of
products and services. However, doing so demands that the customer should be treated
as an equal partner in the product’s life cycle. Hence, it is not surprising that TQM and
marketing literatures have given much emphasis to customer satisfaction.

3.2 TQM and customer orientation


Customers have expectations from an organization which they patronize. If those
expectations are not met, they get dissatisfied, and stop patronizing the organization.
Whether it is a restaurant or a church or a hospital, if it fails to meet the expectations of
its customers then it cannot retain him/her. Hence, maybe due to this reason, marketing
literature gives paramount importance to customer satisfaction. Studying the
profitability of 472 restaurants, Bernhardt et al. (1994) reported that customer
satisfaction data collected at any point in time were directly related to restaurant
profits nine months later. Similarly, studying a diverse group of firms, Anderson et al.
(1993) reported that customer perceptions of quality were positively related to return
on investment. Eklof and Westlund (1998) points out to the fact that customer
satisfaction is effective in quality management and it has the most important role while
implementing TQM. Geyskens et al. (1999) view customer satisfaction as an important
IJQRM antecedent variable for developing long-term marketer – customer relationships.
25,9 Hence, organizations which want to build a loyal customer base with strong relational
foundation cannot ignore customer satisfaction. They have to strive hard to satisfy
their customers in order to retain them.
Corporations of the past did not pay much attention to customer satisfaction. Now,
due to lower sales and product maturity, they are turning around to stabilize existing
916 customers to ensure their market shares. They have now realized that customer
satisfaction will increase customer loyalty, which in turn improves profits (Bruhn and
Grund, 2000). Anderson and Fornell (2000) argue that customer satisfaction will lower
the chance of customers being driven away due to the poor quality of products or
services. Agus et al. (2000) argue that implementing TQM strengthens a company’s
customer satisfaction and improves its financial performance. Naumann et al. (2001)
also point out that, for the next ten years, customer satisfaction would be the main
focus of strategic planning by businesses. Due to customer satisfaction becoming one
of the important judging factors in national quality awards, satisfying customers will
play an important role in every corporation’s future growth. Firms which understand
the significance of customer satisfaction will reap rich rewards.
3.2.1 TQM in services. TQM concepts are widely used in health care industry to
improve customer satisfaction. Ingram and Chung (1997) report that adopting TQM
programs shifts moderately satisfied customers of health care organizations into
maximally satisfied customers. Hasin et al. (2001) indicates that hospitals in Thailand
use TQM because health care industry in Thailand has become very competitive.
Authors further suggest that customer satisfaction is an enormously important
ingredient of TQM. Endorsing this view, Aghazadeh (2002) says that TQM has now
only begun to take precedence in American companies, and since health care is an
industry where individualized care and attention is needed, TQM is absolutely
important for businesses.
3.2.2 TQM in manufacturing. TQM’s impact on manufacturing sector was also
studied by many scholars. Terziovski and Samson (1999) studied the impact of TQM
programs on organizational performance of manufacturing industries in Australia.
They reported that a typical manufacturing organization is more likely to achieve
successes in employee relations, customer satisfaction, and business performance with
TQM. Supporting their view, Agus et al. (2000) reported that TQM programs are
widely used by manufacturing companies in Malaysia to enhance their financial
performance. Furthermore, Agus et al. (2000) indicate that the impact of TQM on
financial performance is mediated by customer satisfaction. Thus, an organization
which implements TQM will have high customer satisfaction leading to improved
financial performance. Examining additional literature on TQM and customer
satisfaction, we find numerous arguments that suggest using a TQM program
enhances customer satisfaction.
Given that customer satisfaction is important, is TQM an effective method to attain
customer satisfaction? What is the magnitude of relationship between TQM and
customer satisfaction? Does the relationship between TQM and customer satisfaction
affected by the culture of a nation or by the industry type? These questions remain
unanswered, and hence, they are the main reasoning of our current research.
Specifically, following research questions (RQs) will be the focal point of this study:
RQ1. What is the nature of the relationship between TQM and customer Total quality
satisfaction? management
RQ2. Do culture and industry types (manufacturing versus service) mediate the
relationship between TQM and customer satisfaction?
RQ3. What is the nature of the relationship between TQM and customer focus?
917
With this background on the literature and RQs, first, let us justify the formulation of
propositions for this study.

4. Study propositions
Many researchers have studied the impact of TQM practices on customer satisfaction.
TQM is used by a wide range of service and manufacturing industries to increase
customer satisfaction. American Express started using TQM processes as a pilot in one
of its Dutch subsidiary in 1990s, and based on its success, company expanded
the program internationally. As a result, recognizing the importance of customer
satisfaction, American Express recovered its top position and went far ahead of its
competitors by using the American Express quality leadership (AEQL) framework
(Vendrig, 1996). Al-Saggaf (1997) conducted a case study on the impact of TQM
initiatives on improving customer satisfaction in the electric service industry in Saudi
Arabia and reported that such initiatives increase customer satisfaction, reduces cycle
time, and minimizes total cost. Kanji et al. (1999) report that even though UK
universities are slow to adopt TQM, those universities which followed TQM
philosophy found enhanced student performance and customer satisfaction. These
studies lead us to believe that implementation of TQM in an organization can result in
increased customer satisfaction, and hence, we propose a direct positive relationship
between TQM and customer satisfaction and posit P1 as follows:
P1. A TQM program has a direct positive impact on customer satisfaction.
Scholars like Dawson (1995) and Dooley and Flor (1998) argue about the effectiveness
of TQM. Dawson (1995) argues that TQM will not work in individualistic cultures like
that of the USA. Reflecting on the adoption of TQM in western companies, Dawson
(1995) writes that the substance of quality initiatives will vary across nations and
businesses due to cultural differences. Author cites studies which show how important
it is to view TQM as a well-defined Japanese technique not transferable for universal
adoption. He calls for studies that examine TQM in its cultural, social, and political
context. Dooley and Flor (1998) also doubt the effectiveness of TQM by saying that
TQM is not suited for a multicultural business environment.
Some researchers have raised concerns about the effectiveness of TQM in service
industries. They argue that service companies cannot measure quality costs because
their products are intangible, perishable, and consumed at the point of delivery. Hence,
service organizations providing intangible services are sceptical about TQM
techniques and its adoption cost. In an interview conducted among managers of
service firms by Elmuti and Kathawala (1999), almost 40 percent of the respondents
indicated that TQM initiatives failed to improve the quality of services and
productivity in their organizations. Major reasons cited for such failures were the
IJQRM unique characteristics of services, and implementation of TQM practices without a full
25,9 understanding of this philosophy.
Studying the implementation of TQM in the UK banks, Cowling and Newman
(1995) found that the banks failed to commit their employees to follow quality
initiatives. Authors cited hierarchical structures, bureaucratic procedures, and
paternalistic employment practices as the major reason for TQM failure. Adding to
918 problems is the fact that there exists a perennial problem of overcoming the suspicion
that exists between corporate office and various branches. Other researchers (Beaver,
1994; Jauch and Orwig, 1994) also argue that TQM will not be effective in a service
setting because of the unique characteristics of services. Since, questions are raised
about the effectiveness of TQM across cultures and industry settings (service versus
manufacturing), we decided to test for moderators based upon type of industry and
individualistic versus collectivistic cultures by positing propositions P2 and P3 as
follows:
P2. The impact of a TQM program on customer satisfaction will be same across
individualistic and collectivistic cultures.
P3. The impact of a TQM program on customer satisfaction will be same across
service and manufacturing businesses.
Stressing the need for TQM programs to have customer focus as its main goal, Tsang
and Antony (2001) write that understanding, satisfying, and surpassing customer
needs should be one of the main goals of implementing TQM programs. Also, as per
these authors, employees should be customer focused. Along similar lines, Dean and
Bowen (1994) argue that customer focus should be a key TQM ideal. Summing up the
literature on TQM, Mehra et al. (2001) propose that TQM of the future should be
redefined to include customer focus, and in a later study, Kaynak (2003) also suggested
further research on implementing TQM and customer relations. Hence, we argue that a
successfully implemented TQM program would increase customer focus, and state the
fourth proposition as follows:
P4. Implementing TQM program increases customer focus in organizations.

5. Methodology
Objective of this research is to study the impact of implementing TQM programs on
customer satisfaction across varied businesses in different cultures. Towards this
objective, we undertook a meta-analysis of the existing research studies on TQM and
its link to customer satisfaction. Meta-analysis is the statistical analysis of a large
collection of analyzed results from various individual studies for the purpose of
integrating the findings (Glass, 1976). Meta-analysis represents key study findings in a
sophisticated manner, and it is capable of finding effects (or relationships) that are
obscured in other forms of research, and furthermore, it provides an organized way of
handling information from a large number of studies under review (Lipsey and Wilson,
2001). In meta-analysis, existing literature is searched for studies that are relevant to
the nature of a specific enquiry. Studies which quantify a numerical relationship
between the dependent and independent variable form the basis for subsequent
analysis. Once the study database is formed, the next step is to convert each individual
study statistic to a common metric for later analysis.
The first step in any meta-analysis is to search extensively for relevant studies. Total quality
For this research, we searched for studies which had TQM as the independent variable, management
and customer satisfaction as the dependent variable. Search was conducted by using
Boolean expression – TQM and customer satisfaction. A keyword search in prominent
databases, ABI-Inform global and EBSCOhost, yielded 361 and 255 studies,
respectively. We carefully scrutinized these studies, one by one, and identified
specific empirical articles of interest to this research. Articles which reported a direct 919
relationship between TQM and customer satisfaction as correlation coefficients were
the only ones selected.
In the end, we were surprised by the lack of empirical studies that have researched
the relationship between TQM and customer satisfaction. This is in line with
observations of Yasin et al. (2004, p. 45) who said:
The bulk of the literature appears to support the notion that there exists a positive
relationship between quality improvement efforts and the various facets of organizational
performance such as operational efficiency, customer satisfaction, financial performance, and
even competitive advantage. However, empirical research addressing the relationship of
quality improvement efforts and its impact on organizational performance is slow in
forthcoming.
We hope that the research conducted in this study will fill this void.

6. Research analysis
6.1 TQM and customer satisfaction
Utilizing the selected research studies, we started converting all statistics of
relationship to effect size. Cooper (1998) calls an effect size as a statistic that measures
the magnitude of relationship (or relationship strength) between two variables.
A correlation is the most appropriate metric for expressing an effect size when we
describe the relationships between two continuous variables (Cooper, 1998). Since, the
studies included in the analysis measured TQM and customer satisfaction as
continuous variables, we used the correlation coefficient as the effect size. Additionally
“study” was used as the unit of analysis (Hunter and Schmidt, 1990) and within-study
correlations were averaged to derive the overall relationship for each study. We
extracted 74 correlations between independent and dependent variables from eight
studies. Within each study, correlations were averaged to derive a single correlation
coefficient for that study. In studies that reported correlations between different
components of TQM and customer satisfaction, such correlations were averaged, and a
single correlation coefficient for each study was derived. We then converted these
correlation coefficients into Fisher’s Z-value to test our research propositions. It needs
mentioning that the total size of respondents from all studies used in our present
analysis is 3,411.
We coded the study for moderators. Given the number of studies, and the fact that
the moderating characteristics were objective (service versus manufacturing, collective
versus individualistic cultures), coding was agreeable among authors (a pre-requisite
for meta-analysis). While coding for national cultures, we used the east-west
classification used by scholars like Ralston et al. (1997). Eastern countries are high on
collectivism and western countries are high on individualism (Ralston et al., 1997).
Thus, studies from Asian countries were coded as collectivistic while European and the
US studies were coded as individualistic. This coded data is shown in Table I.
IJQRM The Z-scores were in a range of 0.16-0.74. Mean and median values were 0.42 and
25,9 0.43, respectively, with a standard deviation of 0.215. In essence, the average effect size
between customer satisfaction and TQM is 0.42. This effect size of 0.42 can be labeled
as small to medium (Lipsey and Wilson, 2001), implying that implementing a TQM
program does impact customer satisfaction. A one sample t-test was conducted to find
out whether the relationship between independent and dependent variables were
920 different from zero. The argument that the relationship between TQM and customer
satisfaction is non-existent was rejected (t ¼ 5.58, P , 0.01). The 95 percent confidence
interval for Fisher’s Z score was 0.24-0.60. If the 95 percent confidence limit does not
contain zero, then the proposition of no relationship between dependent and
independent variable can be rejected (Cooper, 1998). Hence, we conclude that
proposition P1 (which proposes a direct relationship between TQM and customer
satisfaction) is valid.
We conducted a t-test for equality of means. We failed to reject the notion that
individualistic and collectivistic cultures moderate the relationship between TQM and
customer satisfaction. (F ¼ 0.095, P ¼ 0.768). Hence, P2 is also valid. Next we tested
for the moderation on type of industries. We failed to reject the argument that service
versus manufacturing industries distinction moderates the relationship between TQM
and customer satisfaction. (F ¼ 1.638, P ¼ 0.248). Thus, P3 is a valid study
proposition. Related analysis is presented in Table II.

6.2 TQM and customer focus


We repeated the same process for the dependent variable customer focus. A search in
ABI-Inform database with key words TQM and customer focus yielded 68 studies.
A similar search in Business Source Premier yielded 44 studies. We analyzed these
studies (one by one) to locate those empirical studies which reported correlations
between TQM and customer focus. For this research, meta-analysis was conducted

Study Continent Industry Fisher’s Z

Agus (2004)) Asia Service 0.161


Agus et al. (2000) Asia Manufacturing 0.255
Ruggieri and Merli (1998) Europe Service 0.536
Ingram and Chung (1999) USA Service 0.632
Wong (2002) Asia Manufacturing 0.53
Table I. Claver et al. (2003) Europe Manufacturing 0.202
Coding sheet: customer Sakthivel et al (2005) Asia Service 0.74
satisfaction Yang (2006) Asia Manufacturing 0.319

Study Continent Industry Fisher’s Z

Tsang and Antony (2001) Europe Service 0.6931


Morrow (1997) USA Service 0.3769
Table II. Dow et al. (1999) Australia MFG 0.2877
Coding sheet: customer Agus et al. (2000) Asia MFG 0.5101
focus Terziovski (2006) Australia MFG 0.2661
using “study” as a unit of analysis (Hunter and Schmidt, 1990). Hence, within-study Total quality
correlations were averaged to derive the overall relationship for each study. As a result, management
34 correlations between independent variable and dependent variable from these
studies were obtained. Correlations within each study were averaged, and a single
correlation coefficient for each study was derived. These correlations were then
converted into Fisher’s Z value for checking the validity of fourth proposition. It needs
mentioning that the total size of respondents from all studies used in our analysis was 921
4,387. The Z-scores were in a range of 0.26-0.69. Mean was 0.42, and median was 0.37,
and standard deviation was 0.17. In essence, the average effect size between customer
focus and TQM is 0.42. The effect size of 0.42 can be called as small to medium
(Lipsey and Wilson, 2001), implying that implementing a TQM program impacts
organization’s focus on customers.
A one sample t-test was conducted to find out whether the relationship between
independent and dependent variables was different from zero. The argument that the
relationship between TQM and customer focus is zero was rejected (t ¼ 5.387,
P , 0.01). The 95 percent confidence interval for Fisher’s Z score was 0.20-0.64. If the
95 percent confidence limit does not contain zero, then the basis of no relationship
between dependent and independent variable can be rejected (Cooper, 1998). Hence,
P4 is also a valid proposition. Supporting analysis is shown in Table III.

7. Research findings and their contributions


Our research highlights the importance of analyzing the impact of TQM practices on
organizational performance. As suggested by various recent researchers (Kaynak,
2003; Mehra et al., 2001), this research was also an attempt on quantifying the
relationship between TQM, customer focus, and customer satisfaction. Through the
use of meta-analysis, we found that implementing TQM programs in an organization
directly and positively impacts customer satisfaction, and most importantly, this
relationship is invariant across types of industries and cultures. This leads us to
conclude that there is no merit arguing that TQM programs can be successful only in
collectivistic cultures. Furthermore, our study finds TQM ideals to be equally effective
in service firms as well as manufacturing firms. Thus, TQM practices can impact
customer satisfaction uniformly across varied cultures and different industry types.
Organizations that successfully implement TQM will benefit from increased customer
satisfaction.
Additionally, our meta-analysis based research finds that successfully adopted
TQM programs have a solid grounding in customer focus. This provides strong
support for the arguments of Mehra et al. (2001) who stressed the importance of
customer focus in designing of TQM programs. This study indicates that firms must
treat customer focus as a core component of TQM practices in their journey towards

Variables N Mean Median SD 95 percent CI Effect size

TQM-SAT 3411 0.42 0.43 0.215 0.24-0.60 Medium


TQM-customer focus 4387 0.42 0.37 0.17 0.20 to 0.64 Medium
Notes: SAT, customer satisfaction; N, sample size; SD, standard deviation; 95 percent CI, 95 percent Table III.
confidence interval for mean Descriptive statistics
IJQRM effectively building a customer-focused organization. In this regard, our paper
25,9 addresses to the need for research between TQM implementation and customer
relations as proposed by previous writers (Kaynak, 2003; Hendricks and Singhal, 1997).
Furthermore, based on our meta-analytic research, we propose a working definition for
TQM as follows:
TQM is a management strategy that, with sound design and successful implementation, can
922 be adopted to enhance customer satisfaction through a concerted focus on customers.
Furthermore, this strategy is equally applicable to both manufacturing and service
businesses operating in varied global cultures.

8. Managerial implications research findings


In order to ascertain real world contributions (value) of our findings, we formed a focus
group of four senior quality managers, each with a minimum of ten years of quality
management experience in manufacturing and service sectors. Our objective was
two-fold; first, to seek affirmation of our findings about TQM and customer
satisfaction, and second, to refine the findings (as needed) in order to develop some
guidelines for future managerial actions.
Towards the first objective, we shared the detailed study conclusions with each
focus group member individually to get their feedback on the real world applicability
of our findings. Except for minor comments and clarifications, panel members were in
agreement with the research conclusions. Additionally, each member provided us with
their own views on the design and use of TQM programs towards enhancing customer
satisfaction. These views are discussed next.
First and foremost, businesses must become highly effective through
understanding their customers’ needs. This will require that specific skills be
imparted to the organizational workforce. Such HR skills should be customized for
each business depending upon its products and services as well as its unique market
dynamics. Second, due to the global nature of the markets, necessary multicultural
training becomes a must for all business personnel to effectively understand both the
customers and the competition. Third, businesses must prepare their employees in
gauging a customer’s experience using specific assessment criterion in a timely
manner. In view of these arguments, following three-step managerial action plan can
assist organizational efforts to enhance performance:
(1) Develop customized skills in the workforce for understanding customer needs
at critical customer contact points.
(2) Impart multicultural training to specific employees for understanding both the
global customers and the world-wide competition.
(3) Train relevant personnel in assessing customer experience (satisfaction level) at
the right time throughout the sensitive and major contact points.

Based on our study findings, and with the feedback from focus group members, we
propose a conceptual model for adopting TQM practices in businesses. It is shown in
Figure 1 and discussed next.
9. Model justification and future research
In our model, we argue that the aforementioned points be carefully considered in
designing a TQM program to achieve customer focus. Through reverse feedback,
Total quality
management

923
Figure 1.
Conceptual model of TQM
implementation and its
impact on organizational
performance

customer focus can facilitate future enhancements towards designing customized


quality programs for a business. This is not to say that one ignore the traditional
elements of a TQM system design; our arguments should be considered supplemental
to the traditional design process. Such a quality program, when successfully
implemented, will increase customer awareness in the organization leading to higher
satisfaction and enhanced organizational performance. Additionally, the quality
program may provide a basis for future improvements and/or innovations for various
departmental units in a business by becoming more of a customer-focused unit. It is
hoped that future researchers will examine the validity of our proposed conceptual
model through challenging its assumptions.
We propose that TQM programs be looked upon as an effective way of building
customer-focused organizations. We also suggest that future studies examine the
relationship between customer-focused TQM programs and increases in customer
satisfaction among business clientele. This may clarify whether employees in a
business should be extensively trained (in specific quality tools) with a focus on
understanding and satisfying customer needs and wants.
Certain recent studies (Kaynak, 2003; Mehra et al., 2001) strongly recommended that
future research examine the relationship between quality management practices and
their impact on various elements of organizational performance such as customer
satisfaction. It is hoped that our research has filled this gap and it has also provided
guidelines for future research.

10. Conclusions
This research was an attempt to answer key questions on the relationship between
implementing TQM programs and the customer side of a business, specifically
customer satisfaction and customer focus. Based on our findings, we conclude that
successfully adopted quality management practices positively impact customer
satisfaction level. Additionally, organizational focus on customers also increases
resulting in enhanced business performance. Through our interaction with practicing
managers, this paper also proposed a working definition of TQM and provided a set of
IJQRM guidelines for managers to implement TQM practices in both the manufacturing and
25,9 the service businesses.
Every study has limitations, and this one is no exception. Unfortunately, studies
reporting relationship between quality improvement efforts and organizational
performance are slow in forthcoming (Yasin et al., 2004). Hence, our study sample size
was limited. Even though our research study compares favorably with other studies
924 (Davis and Rothstein, 2006), we hope that in future more studies may be available for
inclusion in the meta-analysis. It is strongly suggested that future researchers report
correlation measures in their studies, enabling theory building meta-analytic research
on the other TQM focus areas (process focus, innovation focus, and environmental
focus) that could not be covered in this paper.

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Corresponding author
Satish Mehra can be contacted at: smehra@memphis.edu

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